TOKYO — Japan protested to China on Monday about what it says are groundless accusations that Japanese fighter jets had fired "jamming shells" as six Chinese military planes flew over waters between Japan's southern Okinawa and Miyako islands.
"It is extremely regrettable that the Chinese military is making announcements that are clearly factually wrong," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters. "It also hurts the effort to improve our relations, so we lodged a strong protest."
Japan scrambled fighters on Saturday as Chinese planes flew over the Miyako Strait. Taiwan's defense ministry said four Chinese planes also flew over the nearby Bashi Channel between Taiwan and the Philippines. The waterways and airspace are two of the connections between the contested South and East China seas and the Pacific Ocean.
China said two Japanese fighters launched "jamming shells" that endangered the safety of Chinese aircraft and crew. Such decoy flares are typically used by a pilot to draw away an incoming missile.
Suga denied the Japan did anything that posed a danger to the Chinese. Japan regularly scrambles jets to track Chinese military planes entering the area.
Separately, three Chinese ships patrolled waters around disputed islands in the East China Sea on Sunday. The uninhabited Senkaku islands are controlled by Japan but also claimed by China, which calls them the Diaoyu.
The Chinese exercises came shortly after the Taiwanese president spoke to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in a call strongly denounced by China, which considers Taiwan to be Chinese territory.